The 2014 World Cup gets underway in Brazil on Thursday with the hosts kicking things off against Croatia in the first of 48 matches, with the winner decided in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.
Sao Paulo gets things started, and before the football begins, the traditional opening ceremony will be a celebration of all things Brazilian.
The preparations have been going on for months, as the performers will be the first thing the rest of the world sees of Brazil's World Cup.
It is sure to be a frenetic and joyous way to kick off a month-long carnival of football. Read on for full details.
Venue: Arena de Sao Paulo
Date: Thursday, June 12
Time: 7:15 p.m. BST/2:15 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV1 (UK), ESPN (US)
J-Lo No-Show Turnaround
In the week leading up to the start of the World Cup, Jennifer Lopez, one of the artists who recorded the official Cup song "We Are One (Ole Ola)," pulled out of the opening ceremony, per Bleacher Report UK:
She cited "production issues" as her reason, but it was something of a surprise considering her involvement—along with rapper Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte—in the recording of the official song.
She will be there. Jennifer has always wanted to participate in the World Cup opening ceremonies. We have been trying to work out scheduling and logistics. Any statements to the contrary were premature. Jennifer would not want to disappoint her fans or fans of futbol.
If all goes to plan, then Lopez will indeed be there to perform the official song as part of the ceremony's grand finale with Pitbull and Leitte.
The show's Belgian artistic director, Daphne Cornez, described the theme of the ceremony, per FIFA.com:
The Opening Ceremony is a tribute to Brazil and its treasures: nature, people, football. The sense of excitement here is amazing and everyone is very motivated. It doesn’t matter whether they’re feeling tired or hot sometimes or if they have to go through routines again and again: they just keep on smiling. It’s amazing.
The enthusiasm is clear from the participants, and that is sure to be communicated to all of those watching as the excitement mounts for the action to get started.
Football writer Laurie Hanna provided a look inside the stadium as preparations continue for the start of the tournament and the opening ceremony:
The focal point of the 25-minute extravaganza at the 68,000-seat stadium is a "living" LED ball, reportedly made up of 90,000 light clusters.
Around this, 600 performers will pay tribute to Brazil and its identity and treasures, with dancers, gymnasts, trampoline performers and stilt-walkers all adding to the spectacle.
To the relief of many, FIFA decided earlier this year to drop formal speeches from the opening ceremony proceedings to avoid the boos of protest that drowned out Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff at the opening match of the Confederations Cup last year.
Thus, it will be the performers who take centre stage and hopefully provide a joyous start to what should be a glorious tournament.
All of those involved as performers on the day volunteered for the opportunity, and for every minute of action that takes place, an estimated 20 hours of work has been done in preparation.
After the performers have finished, the official song will be performed, and then all that remains will be for the referee to blow his whistle for Brazil's opener with Croatia.
It should be a spectacular show, and one which will no doubt represent the carnival atmosphere many are expecting for this summer's World Cup.
The spiritual home of football, there is really no better place to host a World Cup than in Brazil, and the ceremony will signal the start of a month of fantastic action.
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